The new retirement

The January 2011 Last Word, The New Retirement (Lexpert), once again tackles lateral hires. And baby boomers. I really need to get over this baby boomer obsession…

Fun excerpt (full text follows):

… he’s that guy who, somewhere at the 25-35 years with one firm mark, left that firm for this firm, causing a nine days wonder on the street when he did so, because he never struck any of us as either a serial monogamist or a greedy piggie. And he really still was a-top of his game—the expiration date on the package had a good few years to go still. But still, he left, made a lateral—in some cases, the pre-New Year’s resolution me would have been tempted to say, “Lateral? Downmarket, rather!”—move. Why? Why did he do it? Why, at a time of life and career where traditionally one wants to slow down, start pondering retirement perhaps and a tour of the world’s dullest—er, loveliest—golf courses—would he put himself in a position where he had to, well, hustle, at least a little bit? Put his reputation to the test and see if he could still deliver, from a new platform?

He did it for you.

OK, not just for you, obviously, it’s more complicated than that.He did it because this is the New Retirement for boomer who plan to live forever.  …

Good to know: whenever I start a Last Word with a reference to a book or quotation, it means my original idea(s) didn’t pan out–ran out of steam after a paragraph or two (or draft or three).

Death Valley

Photo (Death Valley) by Frank Kehren

LAST WORD: The New Retirement?
by Marzena Czarnecka

I’m reading Ted Fishman’s Shock of Gray: The Aging of the World’s Population and How it Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival, and Nation Against Nation, which is an adequate sort of read if you want to get yourself thoroughly depressed before bed. Who wouldn’t want to end their day with predictions of a global Armageddon caused by the relentless aging of the world’s population?

Actually—that would be me. I’m putting the book away and not finishing it (I’ve cheated and looked to the last chapter: there is no surprise twist before the ending, no up-lifting, promising solution). My general New Year’s resolution for 2011 is to be more positive, more hopeful, less cynical, less fear-mongering. I choose to be excited about the aging of the world’s population because… um… because… hold on, give me a moment, paradigm shifts don’t come easy, and this being positive thing don’t come natural to me, you know… I choose to be excited about the aging of the world’s population because of the immense opportunity it offers.

And not just to pharmaceutical companies and nursing home REITs. Now, there will be pitfalls and generational clashes to be sure, but one of the great things about living a long time is that you have more than a fair chance to learn from other people’s mistakes and misfortunes. I recently had real-life proof that this can indeed happen—even among the baby boomers.

Now, as you know, I have a perpetual axe to grind with the boomers. No, wait—the old negative, cynical me had an axe to grind with the boomers. The new, positive and hopeful me sees them as… um… wait, forcing paradigm shift… the new, post-January 2011 me sees the boomers as—got it!—incredibly creative and able to see the writing on the wall and adjust accordingly.

OK, not all of them. But sufficient numbers to suggest predictions of the Armageddon of the Aged are vastly (probably) exaggerated (maybe). I mentioned I had proof, right? The type of proof that speaks best to a lawyer, too: anecdotal evidence via a senior, seasoned—vintage I might say—big firm partner.

Now, I think he’s an acquaintance of yours too—there are several of him around, actually, so odds are, you know one of them—he’s that guy who, somewhere at the 25-35 years with one firm mark, left that firm for this firm, causing a nine days wonder on the street when he did so, because he never struck any of us as either a serial monogamist or a greedy piggie. And he really still was a-top of his game—the expiration date on the package had a good few years to go still. But still, he left, made a lateral—in some cases, the pre-New Year’s resolution me would have been tempted to say, “Lateral? Downmarket, rather!”—move. Why? Why did he do it? Why, at a time of life and career where traditionally one wants to slow down, start pondering retirement perhaps and a tour of the world’s dullest—er, loveliest—golf courses—would he put himself in a position where he had to, well, hustle, at least a little bit? Put his reputation to the test and see if he could still deliver, from a new platform?

He did it for you.

OK, not just for you, obviously, it’s more complicated than that. He did it because this is the New Retirement for boomer who plan to live forever. A pre-boomer lawyer may have retired upon meandering into his 60s (and possibly died an early death of boredom). Or, he may have held on to his practice until the day they pried his cold dead hands off the… sorry, that was the old me sneaking through again… he may have held on to his practice, coasting a bit, slowing down a bit, getting comfortable and, dare I say, lazy, before eventually dying in harness. He certainly would not have chosen to embark on a brand new career.

Today’s boomers prolong their lives in part by launching new careers at this pivotal point. And okay, I was overblowing it: they do it mostly for themselves. They’re self-aware and realize they’re reaching the point where what was good enough for the preceding 20 or 30 years is getting a little stale and they need to rejuvenate their brains to stay on track with the live forever plan. And, the smart ones are aware of demographic trends. They know that, help from Viagra et al. notwithstanding, there is an expiration date on the package that is their marketability—a perceived if not real one (that’s the new, positive me speaking, did you catch that?)—and they want to move before that date comes. And, they know that in the next five years—nevermind the next 10—an awful lot of their peers will be reaching that magical “move or die” point and then, well, the market will be saturated with old… I mean, experienced partners looking for a second life.

But he did do it partly for you. He told me. He wasn’t planning to retire or die anytime soon, and there was a legion of you behind him. “I had to turn things over to the young ‘uns at the firm before they all started to really hate and resent me,” he said.

The post-January 2011 me believes him. Totally. Have you heard this one? “The crusty old managing partner finally passes away, but his firm keeps receiving calls for him. “I’m sorry, he’s dead,” the receptionist says. And says again. And again: the calls keep coming, sometimes a dozen a day—more than he was getting in the last days of practice. Finally, the receptionist realizes it’s always the same voice—and asks, ‘Why on earth do you keep on calling? You know he’s dead!’ The voice pauses, then says, “I used to be one of his junior associates, and I just like to hear you say it.”

Marzena Czarnecka lives and writes in beautiful Calgary and needs a new, uplifting bedtime book. Suggestions welcome.

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